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Why you should compete

By Michael Battaglino


As I sit here on my layover in Arizona, en route from California back to Texas, I am pondering the reason I choose to compete. Not only that, why do I encourage others to compete? Just this weekend I flew out to California to coach two of my clients in their first powerlifting meet.  Why would they want to compete? Are they not just content with posting their training videos to Instagram and hitting triple digit likes? Is that not a marker of success? Competing and getting ready to compete generally are not easy, so why do we do it? A cool trophy? Being Instagram famous? Getting that elusive pro card? Those motivations are tangible, but fleeting. They might feel great in the moment, but eventually even something as huge as getting your pro card loses its luster.

Perhaps before we explore why competing is a reasonable endeavor, maybe we should examine why we train strongman at all. The benefits are endless: you get stronger, you have fun doing it, you can stay healthy into the later years of your life (if you are smart about it) and at the end of the day…lifting an Atlas Stone looks awesome! However , even those reasons make it difficult sometimes to find the motivation to train a keg/farmer’s walk medley outside when it is snowing. Therefore, we need a goal. We need a light at the end of the tunnel to keep the fire burning even when we want to quit (for more on the specifics of setting goals, see THIS article that I wrote last year).


In my opinion, a reasonable competition schedule is something to help keep your motivation high even after you have been training for more than a decade. By competing, you can look at exactly what the strengths and weaknesses are in your training. From year-to-year you can measure, with some degree of certainty, is what I am doing working? If during year one you hit a 225 log and by year four you hit a 325 log, you are doing something right! In the process, you should also be enjoying yourself.


To get started, here is what you need to do. Find a competition a few months away, that is close by (somewhere you can drive to), that looks fun (that is important too) and that has weights you think you can hit (many competitions have a novice division). Then, go to the Starting Strongman Gym Map and find a place to train the events.  If that is not possible, you might have to accrue a few implements. Many a discussion has occurred on the Starting Strongman Facebook page on how to buy/build equipment , so check it out. A quality log, axle, etc. is going to last you a lifetime!  After you figure out where to get the equipment, set up a training plan. If you are unsure how to program for yourself, go to the Coaching page. After that…get to work!  


Do not fret if the first time you try to pick up an Atlas Stone, it feels glued to the ground.  No one at your gym to help show you the ropes? These days, there are so many resources out there including The Strongman How To Videos to help you figure out these events. With some practice, you will lap and load that stone. By the end of the training cycle the Atlas Stone you could not load has become a warm-up! As the competition draws near, you have peaked properly and you are hitting at or near contest weight with confidence!


Finally, the day arrives. Your gear is packed, your food is prepared and you are on your way to the competition. Before the first event you are nervous…you even consider leaving. After that event is in the books you realize, this is pretty awesome! Your friends and family are cheering you on from the sidelines…even your fellow competitors are supporting you! You have been bitten by the strongman bug…and you are already ready to get back to training after the competition!


A word of caution however, do not get too wrapped up in competing all the time. Do not go home the day of your first competition and sign up for six competitions in the next six months. Maybe someday you will be competing in the Strongman Champions League circuit, but not on day one. I am not saying you should not scope out your next competition because you are excited, that is a great idea, but signing up for six in a row will get you burned out quickly. Additionally, for most it will be a hobby, not a primary source of income. Therefore neglecting your family and other important aspects of your life so you can train 4 hours a night 5 times a week is an easy way to make turn a passion in a potentially toxic addiction. Keep your priorities straight!


That brings me to my next point. What if you have competed before, you got burned out, and you are not sure if you should give it another go. My question is, why not? I know people in their late 40s that remember the glory days when 5×5 Squats were something they could do 3 times a week. Those times are difficult to forget, but forget them you must! Start establishing new PRs. Forget what you did at 25 and think about what you can and should do at 45. There is nothing wrong with signing up for the Master’s division. In fact, I look forward to those days because that means I will still be doing something I love.

My first goal here is to get those of you on the fence of competing to JUST DO IT. My second goal is to get those of you have to competed in the past to get back out there and compete once again. I am not saying that everyone who competes in strongman must have aspirations of competing at World’s Strongest Man one day. What I am telling you is that signing up for a strongman competition of any kind is going to give you a goal to work towards and by working towards that goal you will unlock potential within yourself that you did not know existed. So that is that, sign up! And now, unlike ever before, there are tremendous resources available to you at Starting Strongman to help you get started.

Mike Battaglino is both a competitive strongman and powerlifter. He has competed twice at the Arnold Sports Festival in the USAPL Raw Challenge and aims to return there in 2016. His strongman lifts include a 330lb per hand Farmer’s Walk, 650lbx3 Deadlift, 370lb Atlas Stone, and an 850lb Yoke Carry. His best lifts in USAPL (raw) are a 606lb Squat (with sleeves), 358lb Bench, and a 628lb Deadlift. He also plans to compete in his first USA Weightlifting meet in 2016. His next major strongman competition will be at the 2017 LA Fit Expo. He can be reached for strength training programming here, you can follow Mike on Instagram and Twitter 

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